(KEENELAND) Keeneland’s September Yearling Sale, the world’s largest and most important auction of its kind, concluded Saturday with strong indicators of a resurgence in the Thoroughbred market: gross sales of $280,491,300, the highest since 2008; the sale of 18 yearlings for $1 million or more, the most since 2008; and enthusiastic participation from a globally deep buying bench that fueled double-digit increases in gross and average and a record median price.

Cumulative results for the sale, conducted over 12 days, Sept. 9-21, were evidence of  exceptionally strong commerce. Gross sales of $280,491,300 were up 27.6 percent from the $219,723,000 posted during last year’s 11-day sale, and mark the highest total since 2008. This year 2,744 yearlings were sold compared to 2,516 in 2012.

“Our consignors and buyers are to be congratulated for the spectacular success of this September Sale,” Keeneland Vice President of Sales Walt Robertson said. “Consignors brought an outstanding group of horses – the cream of the North American yearling crop – and did an extraordinary job of presenting their product. The strength of the catalog, coupled with the new format, created a buzz across the U.S. and around the world. We saw enormous crowds of buyers that packed the sales grounds through the very last day. Their spirited bidding energized the sale from start to finish.”

The cumulative average price of $102,220 rose 17 percent from $87,330 in 2012. It is the highest average since 2006 and the third-highest September Sale average ever.

The median surged to a record $50,000, up 11.1 percent from last year’s $45,000.

The high volume of trade also drove the RNA, or buy-back rate, to a low of 19.9 percent.

“Buyers are responding to a fair, realistic market,” Keeneland Director of Sales Geoffrey Russell said. “Given the smaller size of the recent foal crops, supply is more in line with demand, spurring competition for horses. Buyers stepped up their game and did so enthusiastically. It is wonderful to see consignors rewarded for their efforts in breeding quality horses. ”

Peter O’Callaghan of Woods Edge Farm, consignor of the sale-topping $2.5 million yearling, agreed.

“The depth of buyers is the encouraging factor of the sale, particularly as the sale’s gone on,” O’Callaghan said. “I really think, comparatively, that every day’s been stronger. If you’re trying to buy what once was a $15,000 or $20,000 horse here the last few days, you’re really struggling because they’re bringing $35,000 to $50,000. Just the amount of people bidding on your horses is really great to see. We’ve been waiting for it for a while.”

Keeneland reformatted the September Sale to reflect three distinct market segments – week 1, the weekend, and week 2. This year, the select Book 1 spanned the entire opening week, Monday through Thursday, rather than a single select session as in 2012. The new format gathered a broad cross section of yearlings at all levels of the market; allowed buyers more time to inspect a variety of horses; and aided consignors in marketing horses to their fullest potential.

The appeal of Book 1 was evident, producing 18 yearlings that sold for seven figures, more than doubling the seven sold in 2012 and equaling the 18 sold in 2008. The 18 million-dollar yearlings were purchased by 15 different buyers.

M.V. Magnier of Irish-based Coolmore Stud purchased the sale-topper, paying $2.5 million for a colt by War Front during the sale’s fourth session. Woods Edge Farm consigned the colt, who is out of the stakes-placed During mare Blading Gold Ring.

Mandy Pope’s Whisper Hill Farm spent $2.2 million to acquire the sale’s second-highest-priced yearling, a filly by Indian Charlie out of multiple Grade 1 winner Take Charge Lady. Consigned by Hill ‘n’ Dale Sales Agency, agent, the filly is a half-sister to millionaire and Grade 1 winner Take Charge Indy and 2013 Travers (G1) winner Will Take Charge.

Buyers of the 18 million-dollar yearlings were equally divided among domestic and foreign interests, and illustrative of the deep diversity of the buying contingent. Buyers representing the U.S. and Europe, as well as Russia, Qatar, Japan, Korea, and Central and South America, were active well into the final days of the sale. Book 1 buyers such as Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum’s Shadwell Estate Company Ltd. and agent Ben Glass, who rank first and second, respectively, as the sale’s leading buyers, purchased horses into Book 3 of the sale.

For the 10th time in 12 years, the sale’s leading consignor was Taylor Made Sales Agency, which sold 254 yearlings for $31,313,500. Taylor Made sold, on behalf of Aaron and Marie Jones, a Tiznow filly for $1.75 million to Borges Torrealba Holdings/Three Chimneys Farm.

Sheikh Hamdan’s Shadwell Estate Company Ltd. ranked as leading buyer for the second consecutive year, buying 27 yearlings for $11,600,000. Shadwell’s purchases were led by a $1 million Tapit filly consigned by Woods Edge Farm.

Tapit, who stands at Gainesway near Lexington, was the sale’s leading sire by gross, represented by 38 yearlings sold for $15,670,000, including four which brought $1 million or more.

During Saturday’s final session, Keeneland sold 195 horses for $2,913,200, for an average of $14,939 and a median of $11,000. There was no comparable session during last year’s 11-day saleTwo horses each sold for $65,000 to top Saturday’s final session. The first was a colt by Hold Me Back consigned by Scott Mallory, agent, and sold to Joe Novogratz. The colt’s dam is Living Fully, a stakes-placed daughter of Wolf Power (SAF).

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